Monday, October 19, 2009
Suddenly, I can smell aloo bhaja. Potatoes, fried. Not jhuri bhaja, which is crisp potato shavings, fine strands that crunch in the mouth, flavours added with kari pata, fried red chillies and perhaps peanuts as well. Not the roundels, the potato slices that may or may not be crisp at the edges and faintly sweet if made from fresh potatoes in winter.
No, what I suddenly smelt – sitting in office, windows closed, cup of post-lunch coffee steaming on my table – was the thick limp greasy flabby listless slivers of aloo bhaja that would make me depressed when served by relatives at lunch. Haven’t touched that junk in years. Decades, even. Yet such is the perversity of the human mind, nostalgia nudged me towards desiring those too. All from the memory of a smell.
I’d say that rates as a pretty acute observation of the human predicament. Right up there with Maugham’s Of Human Bondage, which my father considers one of the greatest novels ever written and I found a load of irritating crap (perhaps because I was about 14). You don’t agree? With any of those three assertions? There you go, human failing again. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to do some research on the local availability of aloo bhaja …